Published on: 16th Feb 2018
When Fujifilm South Africa contacted me in October asking me if I would be interested in trying out this new camera, I obviously said yes, but after looking at my diary I realised that I will only have one window of opportunity, and that was the first weekend in December.
As you know, landscape photography is very dependent on the weather and having only one weekend for this test makes it a big gamble.
Deciding on a location was also difficult.
Taken into account that my hometown is in the middle of Gauteng reduces the possible landscape opportunities also drastically. To the north is the bushveld area which makes for great landscapes,especially because of my love for trees and the bushveld thorn trees is always a winner, but it will not create enough variety.
To the west is the North West- and Northern Cape provinces, but this semi-desert Kalahari area is too vast for a normal weekend getaway. Even the beautiful Witsand National Park is at least 7 hours drive by car.
So that left me with the Mpumalanga province with its Lowveld subtropical landscape opportunities to the east of the Drakensberg escarpment, about 5 hours drive by car, and the Maluti Mountain range in the eastern part of the Free State province which is about 3-4 hours drive by car.
I decided that past experience will enhance my chances for good landscape photos and I have visited the Golden Gate National Park (part of the Maluti Mountains) many times before, so this would be our destination for the weekend.
I only received the camera the Thursday night, so I did not have much time to familiarise myself with it. One of the nice things about Fujifilm is their consistency. Although the body looked much different from my X-T2, it uses the same battery as the X-T2 which is already a big plus for me. The menus also looked almost identical to the X-T2, so it was very easy to set it up the same as my X-T2. By the end of the evening, I was so confident in its handling that I decided to leave the X-T2 at home. After all, the idea was to test this new beast!
The Golden Gate National Park is located in the north-eastern part of Free State with the Maluti mountains and the Caledon river forming the border between South Africa and Lesotho. Its name is derived from the brilliant shades of gold cast by the sun on the sandstone cliffs.The area is famous for its sandstone cliffs and rolling green hills. The accommodation varies from a hotel to self-catering chalets to a campsite. We opted for the self-catering chalets for the weekend.
A week before our trip I started keeping an eye on the weather forecast for that area and the closer we came to Friday the more it looked like we are going to have heavy rain for the weekend. Early on Friday afternoon, on our way, we already saw the clouds building up and by the time we passed the little town Reitz, we were driving a through a huge thunderstorm. We arrived in heavy rain (luckily we decided against the camping idea!). I was hoping to also fit a star trail in over the weekend but the chances of that happening were already reduced to only the Saturday night.
The next morning we went out 30 minutes before sunrise but it was still drizzling. We stopped at a cliff and tested thecamera's weather sealing (which held up perfectly). I manage to get some nice photos but because of the persistence of the rain, the light was not great. By 8 am we decided to go back to our chalet and prepare breakfast.
This first session was already a great eye opener with regards the ergonomics of this new camera. The large grip was very comfortable in the hand, but the thing I enjoyed the most was the touchscreen. Using a tripod and looking at your scene on the back screen, it was natural to touch the spot you want to focus on. Up to this point, I did not think that a touch screen will be one of the things I would use on a camera.By the time we went back to the chalet I was using the pinch-to-zoom feature to review the photo as if I had it all my life!
Now I know all my future cameras will have a touchscreen.
We planned to go out by 3 pm again but it was still raining. Scrutinising the weather forecast revealed that it may start clearing up from the west after 5 pm. This is where local knowledge makes a difference. Because I was in this area many times before I knew that Fouriesburg is about 50 kilometres west of our current location and our chances of getting a break on the horizon will be much better there than at our current location - and that area is just as beautiful.
And if all else fails, we could always do a long exposure of the very well known Fouriesburg dam...
The break on the horizon came in time to colour the sky during sunset. My decision to drive west paid off. Arriving back at our chalet it was still overcast.
I also used a 720nm infrared filter to try the camera's infrared capabilities, but without success. The good news is that the sensor'snormal blocking filter is just as sensitive for infrared light as my X-T2, but the image stabilization and the infrared light did not see eye to eye, there were some weird blur artefacts - especially around objects that reflect more infrared light such as green foliage. On returning the camera I reported this issue as this would be a deal breaker for me.
IMPORTANT NEWS: At the launch I got confirmation that the latest firmware has the option to switch off the sensor's built-in image stabilization, so this should be a non-issue for infrared photographers. I will make sure to test it soon with this new firmware and the image stabilization turned off.
Will I get the X-H1? There is enough reason to get it. The fact that I bought an X-T2 in August means that it will, unfortunately, need to wait. Hopefully months rather than years...
(If you have read up to here and did not click on a photo yet, do so to see them in larger format and also to browse through the rest of this gallery)